LNH: Possum-Man: Relinquished #7: Our Place in the Looniverse

Mitchell Crouch msc376 at uowmail.edu.au
Sun Jul 8 22:04:17 PDT 2012


STICKS TARQCHEVSKISON has half-heartedly given up his masked persona as THE POSSUM-MAN at the behest of THE VIXEN, a net.villain who shares uncanny similarities with his ex-girlfriend MONICA JADE. As a result, his best friend STONES was shot during a holdup and rushed to hospital. Professor of Egyptology SAH MUMIYAH revealed that Sticks' rival DAVID SAWLEY had a wife, KATE SAWLEY aka the net.hero ROSE, who died shortly after giving birth to their son DEANO. Meanwhile, THE WHITE BOOMER has broken out of gaol and is on the loose...

For those confused about continuity, the events of Possum-Man: Relinquished take place before Infinite April.

----=== {PM} ===----

_____         ___  ____
\  _ \        \  \ \  /
 ||_||         ||\\ ||
 | __/         || \\||  O
 ||   OSSUM-MA ||  \ |  O
/__\          /__\  \|

 An ongoing            7
    LNH SERIES        7
         by          7

-{ Our Place in the Looniverse }-

The cover depicts a tower of Possum-Men; each one has one less part of the Possum-Man costume than the one below, until Sticks is left at the top, falling off backwards as he dodges a punch from the Vixen.

----=== {PM} ===----

It was a point of professional pride for Sticks Tarqchevskison that he taught himself literally everything he knew. How to make balloon animals, juggling, puppetry, face painting, how to tie his shoelaces, everything. Recent events, however, had forced him to concede that maybe there were some things with which he needed help. Maybe not 'help' so much, but 'guidance'.

And so he found himself at a professional school for clowns.

"Alright, guys," called out Chucklin' Charlie, the head honcho of Chucklin' Charlie's Academy for Clowning and Classical Ballet, "we're gunna load you up into the car now. Come on, let's go! Into the car!"

Sticks, following the lead of the clowns in front of him, climbed into the tiny car, squeezing up close to complete strangers with terrible personal hygiene and even worse face paint to make room for the dozens more coming in behind him. When the rest of them had struggled in, Chucklin' Charlie himself climbed on top and (with some difficulty) shut the door behind him.

"Okay!" he yelled loudly enough for everyone to hear him, muffled as he was by the pile of sweating clowns. Wow, geez, sometimes I look at what I've just written and wonder what I'm doing with my life. "Now, someone start the car, and we can start driving!"

There was a moment of silence.

"Is... is there anyone up there near the ignition? Or are we just unreasonably packed in the back here?" There was a few short chuckles, and then a muffled response from the front, followed by another moment of silence. "Sorry," yelled Chucklin' Charlie, "I couldn't hear that. What was it?"

Another sound came, closer this time, and then someone close enough to Charlie and Sticks yelled, "There's no key!"

"No key...? But... oh, damn. Okay. Okay, well, that's okay. It's in my left pocket. Can anyone get the keys out of my left pocket?"

Pandemonium erupted.

"Is that Charlie?"
"Who's touching me?!"
"Wrong pocket! Wrong pocket!"
"That's my fly!"
"Whose leg is this?"
"No those are MY keys!"
"Yeah that's definitely someone's junk, sorry."

Finally, the keys were retrieved from Chucklin' Charlie's pocket and passed -- slowly, awkwardly and more often than not invasively -- forward to the ignition. The car was started, did a few slow, wiggly laps of the room, and stopped again.

"Okay," said Charlie, "now it's time to get out. Can we get these doors open please?"

The door handles were located, and doors mostly opened with incident.

"Whose hand is this?" yelled out another clown, giving Sticks' hand a squeeze. "Could you reach forward a few inches to give the door a push?"

Sticks obliged, and was just able to make out the shape of Chucklin' Charlie springing out of the car with nimble ease. "Okay, clownlings! Now it's your turn!"

A sad, molten lump of putrescent clowns slowly flopped out of the doors; the weight of the remaining clowns prevented those at the bottom of the pile from getting up and moving on, and the presence of the clowns at the bottom of the pile prevented those on top from having anywhere else to go.

Sticks waited patiently in the back seat of the car as the other clowns around him slowly made their way out, pulling and wriggling their way to freedom like... like candies from a piñata in exceptionally slow motion. Or something. And he couldn't help but feel that, despite the good intentions of the clowns around him, they just weren't the same calibre as the nimble Chucklin' Charlie.

----=== {PM} ===----

There was a knock on the hospital door, and Stones looked up to see Sticks and Moni in the hospital doorway. "Hey guys! Come on in, there's plenty of room."

Sticks smiled shakily. "Hey there, buddy. You really had us worried for a while there, you know."

"Yeah," Stones replied absentmindedly. "The bullet only grazed me, though."

"Only... but you were coughing up blood!"

"No, no, that was sauce from the taco."

"Sauce from the... we hadn't even ordered our tacos yet! We had literally _just_ walked in the door when the holdup happened!"

"Well, yeah," came Stones' sheepish reply, "but I may have started eating someone else's while they were distracted by the dude with the gun."

There was a moment of silence in the room.

"Jesus, Stones!" cried Sticks as Monica burst into laughter. "That is _not_ okay, man! Christ, I thought -- I thought you were _dying_!"

"Well it did _really_ hurt, so..."

"It really...? You stole someone's taco _while they were being robbed_!"

"I was hungry!"

"You're an idiot!"

"I love you too, pal."

"I..." Sticks could only shake his head, SO FLUSTERED WAS HE. He laughed to himself, and then continued, "I can't express in words how much I hate you."

And then they brofisted, and all was right with the world.

----=== {PM} ===----

Stones stayed in hospital for one more night, and so Monica joined Sticks for a dinner in his apartment. Afterwards, they curled up on the lounge -- aka Stones' bed -- and watched pointless late night television together.

"See, I told you," she was saying, "when you leave things up to the professionals, it works out better. We all have our places in the grand plan of the Looniverse, grasshopper, and yours is _not_ on the wrong end of a pistol."

"But you can't do that _all_ the time," he insisted. "Eventually you have to, you know, to step up. At some point you have to _become_ a professional, at whatever it is that you do."

"What, you want to get shot at for a living?"

"Well, no, it's just... I don't know."

Moni shifted her weight and frowned. "This is really bothering you, isn't it? Is this about the clown car thing again? Because I have spare tissues in my bag, you can have another cry if you need to..."

"No, no, it's not that, it's..." Sticks paused for a moment, trying to organise his thoughts into words. "I just don't think it's that clear cut, you know? I don't think that one person is, I don't know, a fisherman, and so he's really good at fishing and nothing else. Maybe he loves to play sports. And then there are, there are people in offices, who really, really suck at what they do -- geez, just look at these commercials -- and they hate it, but that's still... what they do. But it's not who they are."

"I edit news," Monica whispered, leaning in closer and playing with his hair. "You entertain children. You make people happy, Sticks. You really do. You have a rare gift that most people can only dream of."

Sticks laughed quietly and shook his head. "No. No. I'm... not a good clown, really." He laughed again. "I'm pretty terrible at it, actually. I mean, I do love it..."


Sticks thought hard before continuing. "I can't do many things right... but I just wish I could do the right thing."

Moni smiled. "I think," she whispered, "that you're here with me now, instead of a million other places you could be. I think that's the right thing."

Then, for the first time since before she left for Ame.rec.a all those years ago, they kissed.

...and then Sticks abruptly pulled away. "WOAH HOLD ON I JUST NEED TO GO AND..." remove my net.hero costume from underneath my civvies and quickly wax the Possum-Man logo off my chest? "...MOVE THE COMIC BOOKS OFF MY BED, I AM MEGA EMBARRASSED BY THEM HEY. HA HA HA HOW SILLY AM I?"

He rocketed off towards the bedroom, and Monica let him go with a wink. "Sure you do, tiger."

----=== {PM} ===----

It was almost a week later, and Professor Sah Mumiyah was alone in the exhibition of the ancient Egyptian sorcerer Netmakahn when he observed his ringing phone. Unknown number? Probably telemarketers...


His face contorted into a vision of horror, but he answered it anyway. "Hello?"

"Hello, Mumiyah. It's me."

"Ah! Hello, madam. It's a pleasure to hear from you again!"

"Have you given any thought to my proposition?"

"I have, yes." Mumiyah paused to scratch his chin, thinking hard. "I think it should be able to be done. I haven't looked at specifics, of course, but theoretically... I think it should be possible."

"What resources would you need? How much money? How many people?"

Mumiyah chuckled and observed the mummified body of Netmakahn. "I wouldn't need much, I assure you. I'm a professor in a fictional universe, so obviously I'll be able to perform all the occult biochemistry myself, despite it being stressed every time my name is mentioned that my speciality is Egyptology. I've got to say, though, if it can be done... well, I'm sure I don't need to mention how important it would be to the field of archaeology if we achieve this."

"Of course you don't need to mention it," purred the voice on the other end of the line. "That's why you brought it up. I'll be in touch, Mumiyah. If you hit any roadblocks, let me know."

"Naturally. And..."

"What is it, Mumiyah?"

"...thank you, Vixen."

----=== {PM} ===----

The sun was shining and birds were singing as Sticks and Monica strolled through Stu.rec Park. Sticks was utterly absorbed in the morning paper, the headline of which read, 'DEADLY NEW VIRUS GROUNDS REGIONS 15,000 RACING PIGEONS'. On page twelve, however, was an article entitled 'WHITE BOOMER STILL AT LARGE; SIGHTINGS ACROSS NATION', and it was this one in which he was so thoroughly engrossed.

Monica leaned over and observed the article. "You know, I get that he kidnapped me and you get all macho and protective and cute now that we're together again--"

"It's true, we are together again," he interrupted for the benefit of readers who hadn't worked that bit out from the previous sentence. "It's Facebook official and everything."

"--but you really don't have to read about these things when they don't interest you."

"How do you know they don't interest me?"

"Because you repeatedly insist -- quite fervently, in fact -- that you know nothing about net.heroes and don't really care for them." Moni grinned wickedly, as though she'd just thoroughly outplayed him. "But you just happen to read about the guy who kidnapped me in the paper that I edit. Cute."

"Ha ha ha yes that is it because I am being a good boyfriend and am not at all interested in the affairs of those dang crazy net.heroes!" came Sticks' hasty wooden reply. "Definitely not at all interested in anything to do with them. Nope. Not me. Because I'm not -- nor have I ever been -- Possum-Man. Definitely not."

Moni gave him a peck on the cheek. "That's what I like to hear. It is an interesting time to be listening to what people say about net.heroes, though. This one guy in the office, David Sawley, says he's looking for Possum-Man."

Sticks tried not to let his confusion show. "Oh. He's a big fan of Possum-Man, is he?" he asked, knowing full well that the answer was 'no'.

"No," was the answer. "Not really. But for some reason he's really bent on talking to him about something. He was taken in for questioning by the police about the same time that they caught Duck, and Boomer, and that green electric guy."

"Green-on-Black. Not that I follow it or anything."

"Right, yeah, exactly. Of course. But my journalistic senses are telling me that it must have something to do with that."

They continued to walk in silence for a bit as Sticks considered this. Sawley was far from being his friend... but that didn't mean that he was necessarily his enemy, either.

Suddenly, a shrill shriek suddenly interrupted their reverie.

"No!" screamed a little girl, her arms outstretched towards a tree branch above her head. "Fwuffy! Come back down fwom therwe!"

Sticks stopped dead in his tracks.

"Sticks," Monica said quietly, "just keep walking."

He shook his head.

"No. I... I can't."

"It's a kitten in a tree, Sticks. Someone will get it down. It doesn't have to be you."

"Who?" He turned to face her. "Who'll get it? It's a cat in a tree, Moni, and it's barely three metres off the ground. They're not going to call in the army."

"But it doesn't have to be you! It doesn't have to be you every time we see a cat in a tree or a guy with a gun or a kid spills his Mr. Paprika or we find some stupid possum stuck in a bin, Sticks! It doesn't have to be you!"

Sticks' hand reached subconsciously for his collar. His forefinger slipped under his shirt, and could feel the stretchy fabric of his Possum-Man costume underneath it. "It's just a cat in a tree," he replied. "This isn't a job for the police, or for the fire brigade. It's not a job for the army, or, or for the LNH. And it's sure as hell not a job for a poor little girl. It's a job..." He straightened up to his full height, and thrust his chin out. "...for someone else, while I go to the toilet."

And with that, he rushed to the bathroom.

----=== {PM} ===----

Two seconds later, Possum-Man came running out of the men's room, a wad of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of his left boot and trailing behind him. "SPECIFCALLY IT IS A JOB FOR POSSUM-MAN!" he yelled to no one in particular as he raced towards the tree.

As he dashed across the park, various innocent bystanders moved out of the way and pointed at him. "Look!" they cried. "It's Possum-Man! He's not missing, he's come back to us! We're all saved!"

"NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA," cried Pos as he got closer and closer to the tree, preparing to jump at it and scale it when he got close enough. "NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA, POSSUM-MA-oooof!" His spaghetti limbs flew forward around the tree with momentum, and he slumped off it to the ground. "Oh. Oh, geez, my tooth, ow. Oh. Oh oh oh. Ow. Ow ow ow. Oh. Oh man. Oh, wow, I'm out of practice at this. Am... am I bleeding? Oh, wow. Wow. Geez."

Possum-Man struggled to his feet, and looked at the small crowd that had gathered around him. They stared in stunned silence. All he could do was stare back. After a moment, the little girl stepped forward, and held his hand. "Possum-Man!" the little girl cried. "I _bewieve_ in you!"

It was all Pos could do to stop himself from crying. And then an elderly man stepped forward. "I bewieve in you too, Possum-Man!"

And a young single mother of three. "We bewieve in you, Possum-Man!"

A jogger passing by. "I bewieve in Possum-Man!"

J.M. Barrie time travelled to the park from 1904 and began to clap. "I do bewieve in Possum-Man! I do! I do!"

And soon the park was filled with people of all ages and backgrounds, clapping their hands and shouting, "I bewieve in Possum-Man!"

Pos stood in the middle of the crowd as they screamed their support and clapped for him. Overcome by emotion, all he could do was wave back, and the crowd cheered. Turning to the tree, he wrapped his arms around it, and started to climb with the strength and speed of a drunken, rabid possum.

And the crowd cheered.

After a few minutes of awkwardly shuffling up the trunk, Pos finally reached the kitten. Picking it up by the back of its neck, he held it up and grinned wildly at it. "Thanks, pal," he whispered, and threw it headfirst at the ground. The laws of physics dictated that the cat spin in midair and land on its feet. It then got its bearings and ran off towards the beaming little girl.

And the crowd cheered.

Possum-Man sat in the tree and looked out over the sea of faces. This was the moment he was born to do. Pos grinned and waved, and looked around for Moni. She wasn't over there. Nope. Or over there. Or there. Or-

Pos was suddenly aware of an agonising pain in the back of his head, and also that he was facedown in the dirt. With some difficulty, he turned himself over and saw, in the tree where he had been moments ago, a particularly angry looking Vixen.

"Oh," said the crowd, and quickly dispersed.

The Vixen jumped from the branch and flipped forward, landing on Possum-Man's chest. Pos let out a falsetto shriek of terror and then coughed and spasmed, pinned to the ground.

"I thought," the Vixen growled as she cracked her knuckles, "that we had an agreement."

And with one hit, she beat him into unconsciousness.


Pos had to let out a falsetto shriek this issue since he didn't get to last issue, and I'm pretty sure he's done it every other issue (up until now it's been unintentional on my part, though). Also the newspaper originally had 'IS THE POPULARITY OF TALKING MONKEYS IN DECLINE?' as the headline, but then I saw today's news in Wollongong which was ACTUALLY about the deadly virus and racing pigeons, and thought it was much, much funnier.

I think I really enjoy the quintessential Possum-Man-ness of this one. It doesn't quite have the same action slapstick as the issues that are almost purely Pos running around being Pos, and I'm not sure that I'm quite back into the groove of writing Possum-Man, but I'm pretty happy with how the wordplay turned out when he's Sticks. And that line he says to Monica, "I can't do many things right, but I just wish I could do the right thing," I think is the real heart of his character. I spent more than half an hour on that line alone, and rewrote it God knows how many times. I'm still not sure it flows right in context, but at least it says the right thing now.

Finding his niche as someone who'll rescue a cat from a tree was also a nice moment for me, as an author. I was originally going to have him walk away from the cat at the end of issue #5, and then step in to stop the holdup at the end of this issue when the stakes were higher. I think it says a lot more about his character and the mindset he was in when it's the other way around, though.

~Mitchell Crouch

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